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  by Carol Terry Talbot  
  December 1941.  Pearl Harbor had been bombed and the Philippines were under attach, Manila had fallen.  The dark silence was eerie and threatening.  It was two o’clock in the morning, and the Japanese officers demanded absolute silence.  Hundreds of Americans and our Allies were commanded to walk quietly out of Manila’s Santo Tomas Internment Camp where all was in darkness.  Were we being taken out to be executed?  Only our Japanese guards knew; and the stars shining in the black sky above were our only witnesses.  
  As a young woman on my way to teach orphans in India, I was stranded in Manila by the outbreak of World War II and became a prisoner of the Japanese.  Risking my life, I smuggled radio parts into the Santo Tomas Camp for radio expert, Earl Hombostel, who was secretly building a radio.  
  As we were crowded into truck covered with heavy, brown cloth, I wondered whether they were captured American Army trucks.  The whole situation was dark, frightening and ominous, filled with an air of secretiveness.  At the railway station, a train was waiting for us with Japanese armed guards standing along the top of the train and all entrances.  This deepened our fears.  We were helpless, unarmed civilians.  Were the guns to be turned on us or on anyone trying to rescue us?  After a long, hot,   uncomfortable train ride, we were loaded into trucks and taken to the Santo Tomas prison, later I was moved to the Los Baños Internment Camp.  
  Our Allies were interned with us: The English, Australians, Canadians, Netherlanders, Norwegians, Polish, Italians, Nicaraguans and French.  This mixture of nationalities caused minor problems because most of them felt the war with the Japanese was our war, and not theirs.  One person started making fun of our American flag, “Your flag looks like a peppermint stick of candy with it’s red and white stripes.”  An American promptly responded, “Yes and everyone who ever tried to lick it got sick, too.”  When an Englishman started to blame America for the fall of Singapore, my American blood flowed a little stronger as I replied, “Why do you hold America responsible for the fall of Singapore?  That is British territory, and what’s more, you people have not yet paid your debt to us for the last war.”  I have to admit, I did feel a bit ashamed of having said that, but we were in the middle of war and emotions were strong and deep.  Generally speaking and considering the stress of the circumstances and our crowded quarters, we ultimately managed to get along together quite well.  I did kick one man in the shins for criticizing the   
  U.S.A.  To protect himself, he grabbed my foot, which caused me to fall and knock my sacroiliac joint out of place.  For all the years I was a prisoner, this was painful and I could only sit on one side.  
  One day, I noticed small sores appearing on my hands and arms.  They began spreading all over my body; sores that oozed and then formed a crust on top.  The disease was later diagnosed as impetigo, which was common among Japanese soldiers.  Evidently, I had become infected on that Japanese troop train.  Isolated from everyone else, I became the “camp leper.”  I could not touch the water buckets or anything else that had to be touched by someone else.  The matter oozing from my sores contaminated my clothes and bed sheets re-infecting myself.  I could not bathe, wash my sheets or my clothes – my condition became deplorable.  A nurse living in our barracks took pity on me and decided to help.  Using forceps, she took off the crust covering each one of the hundreds of sores and then applied a medicine, Gentian Violet.  Friends, Mr. And Mrs. Paget, I had met on the ship, risked getting the disease when they washed my clothes and sheets.  However their daughter, Joy, caught the impetigo, but was treated immediately and soon was clear of the disease.  
  We were desperate for news of what was happening in the war, but it was a death penalty to have a radio.  One of our internees, Gerald Sams, called “Jerry” by his friends, was an expert in electronics and secretly build a battery-operated radio regardless of the threatened death penalty, letting bits of news trickle through the camp now and then as “rumors.”  
  Deaths by starvation accompanied with beriberi increased, as did deaths by execution of men, who escaped the camp to get food for themselves and their loved ones.  They were shot when returning to camp.  After the American Army landed on the Philippines and came closer to our camp, the Japanese became harsher in their treatment of us.  Food became less and less, until all they give us was un-husked rice.  To eat it in that form would have torn our intestines to pieces, but we had no way to remove the sharp husk on each grain.  Our fingernails were to weak to be of any use.  We tried pounding or rubbing the grains between two stones or blocks of wood.  Dr. Nance told us we were using up more energy trying to remove the husks than we would gain by eating our little portion of rice.  Some people ate slugs and weeds to keep alive.  We prayed our American Army would rescue us soon, because none of us could last much longer.  The Japanese guards seemed to be getting harsher and meaner each day the Americans moved closer.  
  February 1945.  They lined us up four deep for roll call at seven o’clock every morning.  The rumor persisted in camp that one morning soon, as we were lined up, they were going to shoot us all down.  Massacre us!  After being prisoners for about three and one half years, we stood there almost too weak to stand erect.  It was February 23, 1945, and the next day was my birthday.  “What a way to spend one’s birthday” I thought as I looked up and saw nine planes flying directly at us, at a few hundred feet off the ground.  Thinking they were Japanese planes, we froze, wondering whether they would mow us down as they flew by.  As the planes flew nearer, I saw a white star, instead of the “fried egg” of the Japanese, on the wings of the planes.  I shouted “I SEE STARS! I SEE STARS!” and one of the men yelled, “THEY’RE AMERICAN!”  Just then we saw white parachutes floating downward and we thought food was being dropped to us, and the one our men shouted, “THEY’RE PARATROOPERS!”  An American nun who had said the night before that, if we were going to come out this camp alive, God would have to send his angels, now I exclaimed, “HE SENT THE ANGELS!”  
  As soon as we saw the parachutes, bullets began to fly and we fled for our barracks.  Using my one suitcase as a fortress, I was hiding behind it when a paratrooper saw me and said in a strong voice, “Lady you’ve got five minutes to get out and load into an Amtrac.”  Not having the faintest idea what an Amtrac was, I flirted with him a bit and said coyly, “What’s an Amtrac?”  Then he shouted to me, “Now you’ve got two minutes to get in that Amtrac.”  Picking up my suitcase and starting to run, I remembered my secret diary hidden nearby in a tin can and ran back to get it.  That dear paratrooper saw me and ran after me shouting, “WRONG WAY, LADY, WRONG WAY.”  I kept running and shouting, “MY TIN CAN! MY TIN CAN!”  I started to dig frantically with my hands into a small garden patch outside my barracks, still shouting, “MY TIN CAN! MY TIN CAN!”  He must have thought I was digging up my family jewels, and begin to help me dig until he found the tin can.  He then told me in no uncertain terms, which I will not repeat here, to get going.  Thanks to him, I made it onto an Amtrac, clutching my diary in my hand.  
  On the Amtrac’s we fled across land and water.  When our Amtrac came under fire, I thought I was hit on my leg.  It turned out to be a hot empty casing from our machine gun returning fire, which hit me.  After we were out of firing range, the trip across the lake became a victory parade.  A few American Flags were brought out and waved.  No Fourth of July parade could ever be better in patriotism, loyalty, and thanksgiving for America and pure joy!  
  ABOVE ALL – a lifetime of appreciation to each and every paratrooper of the 11th Airborne Division who had a part in our rescue.  You are our horoes for a lifetime.  All the prisoners you rescued from the Los Baños Internment Camp will have a love affair with the 11th Airborne Division, so long as life shall last.  
  The diary I risked my life to secretly write in the Los Baños Internment Camp, and which the paratrooper dug up for me, is the basis for my book, ESCAPE AT DAWN, honoring the 11th Airborne Division, which this is a book review of by James W. Lorio MD.  
  About the Author:  Carol was born in Hollywood, raised and educated in southern California.  While enroute to teach in an orphanage in India, she was stranded in Manila at the outbreak of WWII.  Under threat of execution, Carol surrendered to the Japanese and was incarcerated in Santo Tomas, the moved to the Los Baños Internment Camp.  Upon liberation by elements of the 11th Airborne Division, she returned to the US aboard the troop transport, US Admiral Eberle.  During the next two years, while regaining her health, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree at Chapman College, and then traveled to India, where she did administration and teaching for 16 ½ years at an orphanage of 800 children.  After returning to California, she wrote several books and married Dr. Louis Talbot, now deceased.  In 1978, she received an Honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Biola University, LaMarado, CA.  Dr. Carol Terry Talbot resides in Seal Beach, CA.  
  Courtesty of “WINDS ALOFT” Quarterly publication of the 511th PIR Association